day 15/40: #40shoutouts40days

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Because I’m shifting gears into another category of people to thank, I would like to mix things up a bit before carrying off on another trajectory. To the fresh-faced barista at Taste who blared Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged 2.0 album on Tuesday morning, you are my hero.

Two reasons. One, I learned not long ago that some undergrad friends had never heard of Lauryn Hill and I instantly felt like a fossil. You, sir, restored my youth. Two, most people don’t spin that album in public, my friend, but you! You have excellent taste in haphazard hip-hop folk music. I’m still smiling.

So Lauryn Hill’s live album is precious to me. Like most fans, I shrieked when the follow-up to her opus, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, was released fourteen years ago. Once I got my hands on MTV Unplugged 2.0, I listened to it on repeat for maybe three years straight and watched the DVD regularly. Superfan over here.

If you don’t know the album, the set is all original material, with the exception of one Bob Marley cover. The songs are completely stripped and her voice cracks all the time. (Doesn’t this album sound delicious?! I know, it’s a hard sell to virgin listeners.) Under all that raspy delivery and erratic strumming is powerful content though. Plus, it’s what she says between the songs that gets me most.

The theme of the album is to recognize the slavery we’re victim to, whether it’s bondage to other people’s expectations, the past, social norms, the human condition, evil – you know, light stuff. Her call is to get free. Rebel, she says. Get out of all the boxes. Repent. Let go of all the crap that’s killing you. It’s freedom time. There is a lot of scripture woven into her lyrics and it was precisely what my eighteen-year-old self needed to hear then. As I enjoy it now, it still sends chills up my neck. It’s so raw and beautiful.

If you care to listen, it’s on iTunes. Go henceforth. Sadly, because the album is now a dinosaur in the digital era, I can’t get a video of the entire performance on YouTube. This will have to suffice.

Please. Somebody pass the anti-aging serum.

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